Ty Dillon 2013 year in review
January 02, 2014, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
This is the fifth in a series of 2013 Camping World Truck Series driver recaps that will be featured on NASCAR.com.
The way Ty Dillon sees it, he has some catching up to do.
For the second time in his budding NASCAR career, he'll be moving up a rung in the national series ladder, following a championship-winning lead this year from big brother Austin Dillon, who won the NASCAR Nationwide Series title last season. Ty Dillon couldn't quite make a family sweep of championships in 2013, but the consolation prize was still sweet -- a two-win season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and a runner-up finish to runaway champ Matt Crafton, complete with some fireworks along the way.
Even though his brother has a 2-0 lead in national series championships, Ty Dillon sees his move to Nationwide competition for Richard Childress Racing in 2014 as a chance to help even the score.
"I'm a little behind right now," Dillon said with a sheepish grin at the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series Awards Banquet in November. "I really wanted to get that truck championship so that I was at least on the same level. It's cool just to be able to succeed for RCR and to be able to win races this year was great enough for me. We really wanted that championship, but I'm going to do all it takes to get another one next year."
The younger Dillon's second full season on the truck tour started off slowly, with just one top-five finish in the first six races, leaving him seventh in the points by the time the calendar turned to June. But he rallied from a devastating engine failure and 31st-place finish at Dover with a second-place effort at Texas and his first victory of the year at Kentucky in the two-race span that followed.
Dillon's showing on those 1.5-mile speedways was an accurate indicator of more success on intermediate-sized tracks -- he recorded top-five finishes in six of the series' eight races on 1.5-mile layouts. Late-race contact, however, hampered competitive outings by Dillon in the next three races (Iowa, Eldora and Pocono) to offset his progress through the summer months.
"For sure, there were a lot of opportunities that I learned from now that would've put us right in it," said Dillon, who led laps in 12 of 22 races last season. "... It seemed every time we gained momentum to get back in the hunt for the championship, we'd make a mistake, whether it was just me or a mechanical failure. But that's racing -- if it was easy, it'd be called winning, not racing. So I'll learn from it and use my experience that I learned this year to go on to the Nationwide Series."
Some of Dillon's biggest 2013 headlines, though, came in the later portion of the season -- both in races he didn't win. He was punted from the lead by fellow youngster Chase Elliott in the final corner of the final lap in the series' debut at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, touching off a heated post-race confrontation in a race full of them.
Five races later at Martinsville Speedway, Dillon locked horns with Kevin Harvick in a late-race battle for second place, triggering a fender-clanging duel on the track and plenty of name-calling off it. Even given time and distance from the incident, Dillon said he wouldn't have changed his approach.
"I'm a hard racer and maybe I'd have given him another lap or so, but I was there to win the race," Dillon said. "Matt Crafton had a huge points lead. As we'd seen, maybe if I'd we would've won that race or finished up front, we'd have had a better shot coming into Homestead. I'm a hard racer. I want to win races, and I feel like those guys are trying to steal my money, steal my job, so I'm going to do whatever it takes to win races."
The 21-year-old driver accomplished that in the series' next race, leading 130 of 147 laps for a dominant victory at Texas Motor Speedway. That triumph and a fourth-place run the following week at Phoenix helped Dillon grab a tenuous hold on second place in the standings, but his chances of catching Crafton for the overall crown were officially gone once Crafton started the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Dillon, who added the series' Most Popular Driver Award to his 2013 accolades, will carry two years of seasoning to NASCAR's next level, where he already has 12 career starts. Even though he anticipates a challenge in the Nationwide Series, he makes the move into the championship-winning team vacated by his brother, who joins the Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2014.
"My expectations are always the same. Even though it's my rookie year, I'm going out to win the championship and win races," Dillon said. "I'm moving in to a great team that's showed they've got the ability to win championships and that's what we're going to do right off the bat. We've kind of taken a slower path in our careers, making sure that when we're ready to move up, we can win races right away. That's the plan -- I'm going to set my goals high for next year and hopefully, win four or five races. I think if you set your goals high, if we don't achieve that goal and only win two or three, it'll still be pretty good."